He knew something was wrong when dozens of law-enforcement vehicles, screaming sirens, were shot dead on Friday afternoon from his home in Aurora, Illinois. About 15 minutes later, Zanis' daughter called and said it was an active shooter.
"I think I never thought it could ever happen here," Zanis says seriously.
Most Americans probably do not know his name, but many have seen Greg Zanis's work – painted crosses with the name of the victims – built after a national tragedy.
Everybody needs about an hour to do it.
"My simple message is just the heart on the cross," he says. "Love your brother, love your neighbor, do not judge her, life is not so complicated, hatred and revenge is that."
He has made crosses for almost every national tragedy since Columbine
A year and a day before the shoot in Aurora, Zanis constructed and installed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 1
In a tragedy Zanis often slips in unnoticed to help Americans understand what happened.
He can not do that here. Everyone in Aurora knows him and his work.
The bombings in Boston. The Church of Life Shooting The Sikh Temple Shooting. Thousands of Oaks shoot. Las Vegas shoot. Southerland Springs, Texas, shooting.
In the episode Zanis is there.
Last year, he also traveled to Paradise, California to meet the victims of the forest fires, and met with 50 families. On the return trip, after his job was done, he had two days to relax and calm down.
"There is no peace to have this drive," he says of shooting Aurora. "I can go there."
The hardest crosses he ever made
On Friday night, hours after the shooting, he met families who asked him to make crosses for their loved ones.
They just sat and stared at each other.
"They wanted me to go and set up the monuments," he says. Zanis installed the crosses whose names had not yet been written on them.
Zanis was at the press conference Saturday when the names of the victims were announced:
Clayton Parks of Elgin, Illinois, Human Resources Manager; Trevor Wehner from Sheridan, Illinois, an intern and student at Northern Illinois University; Russell Beyer of Yorkville, Ill., A mold operator; Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Illinois, Warehouse Manager and forklift operator; and Josh Pinkard from Oswego, Illinois, a plant manager.
As soon as Zanis received the names, he left the press conference, worked on the hearts, wrote them down by name and placed them on the crosses at the vigil. 19659002] "They are the hardest I have ever done," he says.
Zanis says he worked the night on the cross and still has not slept. The crosses are standing, but his work is not finished yet.
More needs to be done, and he's busy organizing vigils for the families and organizing a march to thank the policemen wounded in the shootings.